The prison was given an inspection in December 2017/January 2018. After their inspection the Inspectorate immediately raised significant concerns with the Secretary of State, the first time such an urgent notification had been issued by HMIP,(Click here) The full report can be read at the Ministry of Justice web site, just follow the links below. In their latest report the inspectors said:
“HMP & YOI Nottingham, a local prison holding just over 1,000 adult and young adult prisoners, was inspected in early January 2018, our third such inspection since 2014. In contrast to our usual practice of arriving unannounced, this inspection and indeed the previous one in 2016 were both announced well in advance. Notice of an impending inspection provides a useful opportunity for a prison to focus on improvement or the completion of earlier recommendations. It was, therefore, extraordinary that over the course of these three inspections the prison had consistently failed to achieve standards that were sufficient in any of our four tests of a healthy prison. Most concerning of all was that at all three inspections we judged outcomes in safety to be poor, our lowest assessment, and at this inspection we found that only two out of 13 recommendations made in 2016 in the area of safety had been fully achieved. We can recall only one other occasion when we have judged safety in a prison to be poor following three consecutive inspections.
This persistent and fundamental lack of safety, taken together with an overall lack of improvement from previous poor inspections, caused me on 17 January 2018 to write to the Secretary of State for Justice (see Appendix IV) and for the first time invoke the new urgent notification protocol. This letter set out, publicly, our significant concerns regarding the treatment and conditions for prisoners in Nottingham. The protocol requires the Secretary of State to respond publicly within 28 days, setting out how outcomes will be improved in both the immediate and longer term. The Secretary of State wrote to me on 12 February 2018 and his action plan was published on the same day (see Appendix IV).
As I set out in my letter of 17 January, our findings at Nottingham in recent years tell a story of dramatic decline. I also referred to the seeming intractability of problems at this prison. A concern, and sadly no surprise to me, was the very poor response by the prison to the recommendations we made in 2016. The details and consequences of this failing are referred to and evidenced throughout this report.
This prison will not become fit for purpose until it is made safe. It was clear from our evidence that many prisoners at Nottingham did not feel safe. In our survey, 40% told us they felt unsafe on their first night, 67% that they had felt unsafe at some point during their stay in Nottingham and 35% told us they felt unsafe at the time we asked them, during the inspection itself. Well over half of respondents reported bullying or victimisation in one form or another. Reported violence had not reduced since our last visit and remained high; there had, for example, been 103 assaults against staff in the preceding six months and there were numerous further reported acts of violence and poor behaviour, all of which contributed to what we considered to be an atmosphere of tension and unpredictability around the prison. Use of force had increased considerably since 2016 with, for example, nearly 500 incidents in the six months before we inspected, yet governance and supervision of such interventions were weak. The prison had been supplied with body-worn video cameras, which should have been a great support to staff, and yet because of a series of practical and administrative reasons that needed to be gripped and dealt with by managers, they were not being used.
We do not claim that the prison had been completely inactive in the face of these challenges. A new violence reduction strategy had been prepared in late 2017, there was some improved information gathering and the introduction of a key worker arrangement on E wing was showing some encouraging early signs. However, this work was fitful and had yet to have an impact.
The prison needed to do much more to tackle the problem of drugs which, as always, was inextricably linked to violence. Again, the prison had not been completely inactive and had a drug supply reduction policy, but it was not embedded and was not effective. Well over half of prisoners told us drugs were easily available and 15% indicated they had acquired a drug problem since entering the prison. Drug-testing data showed a level of positive testing at 14.2% of those tested, rising to nearly 33% when new psychoactive substances (NPS) were included. However, testing procedures were, in our view, ineffective, which could have masked an even worse problem.
Not surprisingly, in a prison which could be defined by the prevalence of drugs and violence, the level of suicide and self-harm was both tragic and appalling. Since our previous visit, eight prisoners had taken their own lives, with four of these tragedies occurring over a four-week period during the autumn of 2017. Just a few short weeks after this inspection, a ninth prisoner was believed to have taken his own life. We were concerned that some repeated criticisms related to these deaths made by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) had not been adequately addressed. For example, cell call bells were still not being answered promptly. Levels of self-harm were far too high with 344 occurrences recorded in the six months leading up to this inspection. Almost a third of prisoners told us they had been the subject of assessment, care in custody and teamwork (ACCT) case management at the prison, but only 38% of these felt cared for by staff. We encourage and support the initiatives that had been started by the prison to try to drive improvement, but it was clear that any such improvement was yet to take hold.
Throughout this report, we have acknowledged where positive work was taking place in HMP & YOI Nottingham. The increase in staff numbers over recent months was an example of this, as was the fact that health care was reasonably good, and there were plans to improve mental health provision. There had been some useful work to bring more predictability to daily routines and increase the amount of activity on offer. There were also some creditable efforts to prepare men for release, which were being delivered by an effective community rehabilitation company. This progress is fully recognised but, at the same time, our colleagues in Ofsted judged that the overall effectiveness of learning and skills provision ‘requires improvement’, and there were significant weaknesses in offender management and sentence planning.
Underpinning several of the problems within the prison was the inexperience of many staff and middle managers. We were told that about half of wing-based staff were within their first year of service. Our findings suggested prisoners held little animosity toward the staff body and we observed officers trying to be helpful and doing their best. However, too many staff were passive, lacked confidence in dealing with issues or in confronting poor behaviour, and prisoners did not yet see them as reliable or able to deal with the many daily frustrations they faced. It was clear to us that an urgent priority should be the creation of structures and initiatives that would ensure staff had the support and mentoring they needed to develop their effectiveness.
We were given assurances that the governor and his team had a grasp on the problems which they faced and I am hopeful that the urgent notification procedure I have invoked will galvanise Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) to provide the support the prison needs to make it an acceptable environment in which to hold prisoners. If this is to happen, there will need to be levels of supervision, support and accountability that have been absent in the past. The action plan drawn up in response to the urgent notification promises much that is welcome in terms of review, audit and analysis. However, this must all be translated into tangible action to improve the day-to-day experience, safety and well-being of prisoners. Unless this happens, I fear that progress will be neither substantial nor sustainable. In our report we have not sought to burden the prison with an excessive number of detailed recommendations, and would emphasise our eight main recommendations at the front of this report. These prioritise safety, including violence reduction, use of force, drugs and safeguarding issues. We look for improved support for inexperienced staff and managers, and better communication with prisoners, a far better regime and more attention to offender management.
To conclude, this was yet again a very poor inspection at Nottingham that left me with no alternative but to bring matters directly to the attention of the Secretary of State by invoking the urgent notification procedure. The record of failure, as set out in his report, cannot be allowed to continue. For too long prisoners have been held in a dangerous, disrespectful, drug-ridden jail. My fear, which may prove to be nfounded, is that some could face it no longer and took their own lives.
Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM March 2018
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
To read the full reports follow the links below to the Ministry of Justice website
- HMP & YOI Nottingham, Report on an announced inspection of HMP & YOI Nottingham (11–12 December 2017 & 8–11 January 2018)
- HMP Nottingham (PDF, 827.37 kB), Report on an announced inspection of HMP Nottingham (1-5 February 2016)
- HMP Nottingham, Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP Nottingham (8-19 September 2014)
- HMP Nottingham,. Unannounced short follow-up inspection of HMP Nottingham (25-27 February 2013)
- HMP Nottingham, Announced inspection of HMP Nottingham (15 – 19 February 2010)
- HMP Nottingham, Unannouced short follow-up inspection of HMP Nottingham (15-18 October 2007)